Pecan Butter Ball Cookies

Pecan Butter Balls are shortbread cookies filled with pecans and dusted with powdered sugar; an all time favorite!

Pecan Butter Ball Cookies - A shortbread cookie filled with pecans and dusted with powdered sugar.

I first posted about these Pecan Butter Ball Cookies several years ago; back when my dog was my most loyal reader. Since today is National Cookie Day I thought it perfect to offer them again along with other holiday favorites. I love these cookies and so does everyone I make them for so timing was perfect to share them with more than just Abbie!

Grandma's House

My first memory of these cookies was at my Grandma and Grandpa Bathe’s house and I have had a plate of them every year that I can remember. My memories of making these with her in this charming cottage in South St. Louis are some of my most cherished memories.

Want to save this recipe?
Enter your email & I’ll send it to your inbox. Plus, get great new recipes from me every week!
Save Recipe

I continued the tradition of baking them for my family when I was a teenager and have made them with my children and for holiday gifts for friends every year since. No matter how busy the holiday season, not one has gone by that this cookie isn’t at the top of the list.

The ingredients are simple but using the best is important and for me that means good vanilla and butter. I admit that at one time in my young life I wasn’t so crazy about vanilla. How could that be you ask?

Well, you know how good it smells when you open that bottle of real vanilla extract? I decided to sneak a sip when my mom wasn’t looking and let’s just say, the magic happens somewhere in between the mixing and the baking because drinking it straight did not exactly give me the rewards I was looking for!

Luckily I’ve moved beyond that experience and always have a supply of vanilla extract, vanilla beans and my new favorite, vanilla paste, on hand (yum, vanilla sugar).

chopped pecans

Though there are versions I’ve seen and tasted called Mexican Wedding Cookies and Russian Tea Cakes, all include some slight variation on ingredients. My grandmother was neither Mexican or Russian so it’s a great  example of how recipe traditions spread all over the world.

Pecan Butter Balls are more typical of the name associated with this buttery, nutty cookie from the Northern European part of the world; my grandmother’s family was German so it figures that this would be her version of this recipe. Maybe it’s my memories that make them my favorite. I will always think of that wonderful sweet woman I was lucky to call my Grandma Lizette!

Pecan Butter Ball Cookies - A shortbread cookie filled with pecans and dusted with powdered sugar.

They are really pretty easy to make. Butter and sugar are blended together until smooth and then flour is added, then pecans. I debate every year if I should toast the nuts first; some years I do and some not but I’ve grown fond of toasting almost every nut I use; I prefer them out of their ‘raw’ state.

Once the dough is formed they are simple to make; I try to make them into balls that are no larger than one inch. Without leavening in this shortbread type cookie, they can be placed in close proximity to each other on a baking tray.

Knowing when they are done is tricky…but the time element included is pretty right on. They can just begin to be browning but a brown cookie is not what you want; just a tinge of tan. Baked too long and they will crumble and the bottoms will burn.

Let them cool for a minute and then they get rolled in powdered sugar. As a kid we only rolled them once but I prefer doing it two times. Then cool completely before storing. Try not to finish them off before they get put away. ๐Ÿ™‚

I know these Pecan Butter Balls are a tradition for many; no matter the name assigned to them. Maybe it’s time to make them yours too? Here’s wishing you and yours the merriest of holidays!

PIN IT! ‘Pecan Butter Ball Cookies’

Pecan Butter Ball Cookies in a Holiday Tin in a Green Holiday Tin
Pecan Butter Ball Cookies in a Green Holiday Tin - A shortbread cookie filled with pecans and dusted with powdered sugar.

Pecan Butter Ball Cookies

A nutty and not overly sweet cookie that is filled with pecans and dusted with powder sugar. A traditional over the holidays.
5 from 50 or more votes
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Cookies, Brownies and Bars
Cuisine American
Servings 48 Cookies
Calories 86 kcal


  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • ยผ teaspoon. salt
  • 2 cups pecans I actually like to toast my pecans briefly before chopping them, but some prefer the cookies make with raw pecans…your choice!
  • Confectioner’s sugar


  • Finely chop pecans. I use my food processor but if you don’t have one and are doing by hand, they do need to be finely chopped.
  • Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined.
  • Add flour and salt and mix thoroughly.
  • Add nuts, incorporate into dough using a paddle attachment on your mixer or your hands.
  • Refrigerate 30 minutes (I’ll make the night before too, refrigerate and then let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before continuing)
  • Roll into 1-inch balls and place one inch apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees until set but not brown. Remove from oven and let set for 1 minute.
  • Roll in confectioner’s sugar.
  • Roll again if desired when cool.
  • For a change, we will sometimes roll them in a combination of confectioner’s sugar and pastel colored granulated sugar; it makes for a very winter wonderland sort of look with blue, pink and purple sugars.


Be sure to let them cool completely before storing them.


Nutrition Facts
Pecan Butter Ball Cookies
Serving Size
2 Cookies
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword baking, balls, butter balls, Christman, cookies, desserts, holiday, mexican, pecan, russian tea cakes, wedding
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Similar Posts


  1. repinned this pin and gave this recipe a try. my husband says they are the best pecan ‘whatchamacallit’ cookies ever. these are his favorite cookies and i was worried when i decided to make them. so glad i did. it’s so simple. and toasting the pecans makes such a big difference! thanks again for such an amazing recipe.

    1. They might be a bit crumbly when you eat them but I wouldn’t consider them really crumbly; they always hold together well for me. Were they warm? They do hold together best after the baked cookie has cooled off.

  2. Thank you for posting such a delicious assortment of cookie recipes many of which I’ve never made. I am definitely planning to add a few to this year’s baking list!!! Merry Christmas!!!

    1. You are most welcome Karen; I hope I can get mine done too; moving this time of year is dumb. Necessary but dumb. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. These really are beautiful and I do find it fascinating that some recipe seem to find their way into so many different cultures. But I do love some of your more decadent cookies…

    1. I love that too; though I’ve never had another cookie that tastes quite like these but I know it’s probably memories that do that, right?

  4. This post made me smile! These cookies are a tradition with my family, too. I have not yet tried vanilla paste, but may need to get some now. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. It’s great Claire; just the easiest way in the world to incorporate vanilla beans, that’s for sure.

    1. Well, it sure wasn’t my children; they can’t be bothered with things that are important to me! But my dog loves me…that loyalty business you know? She’s good about that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Let’s make a deal– if you don’t find time to bake these in your new place I will do so for you. Have to keep your tradition going! Thanks so much for the goodies today.

    1. You know I might have to take you up on it…they are cutting it close. Guess the got the word and are replacing some flooring today and tomorrow. Yikes! Thanks Holly…you are too sweet!

  6. I’ve been making your pecan balls ever since I found your post a few years ago. They are definitely a favourite (Christmas and otherwise!) You have shared some lovely Christmas cookie treats here today and I hope to be able to try a few of them.

    I am hoping so hard for you that you are in and settled into your new home for Christmas Barb. What a wonderful way to kick off the New Year for you. Best wishes!

    1. I remember that and I love it too…happy to share a family tradition far and wide with my Canadian friends; you especially Paula. I hope so too Paula. Maybe not settled but at least in. This is not living; it’s just barely surviving…I don’t have my own kitchen? Impossible to imagine what that has entailed. I should write a book but prefer to just put it behind me if possible! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. What a cheery post to read over my morning coffee, Barbaraโ€ฆ and how I smiled when I read about your dog being your most loyal reader, LOL! My mum hardly ever used vanilla, so, for me it was a later awakening too. But, oh, how I love it now. Great cookie roundupโ€ฆ delicious as always. Love your work!

    1. I think we’ve all had those moments right? She is a loyal friend for sure! You are too sweet and generous with your compliments…hope you are feeling better Lizzy!

    1. Normally in any given year I would make all of them and package up boxes for friends. This year I hope to have one. One cookie that is!

    1. Zullen we eerst eens vaststellen dat, als het niet lukt om ontpolderen af te blazen, dit vooral komt door waterdichte afspraken met de Belgen? Ik vind het zeer te prijzen dat Rutte op zoek wil naar de ruimte om de misbaksels van PvdA en CDA te onschadelijk te maken. Dat is niet vals, maar een zeer gewaardeerde inspanningsverplichting na jarenlange overheersing door one issue clubjes. Het is inderdaad hoog tijd voor mรƒยฉรƒยฉr VVD in de Waterschap en Provincie!

  8. I love those Pecan Butter Balls/Mexican Wedding Cookies/ Russian Tea Cakes. Well, I love something similar – I’ve never had exactly this recipe! Most of the ones I’ve had included walnuts – love the idea of pecans. These looks terrific! Bummer the closing is moved back a bit, but it’ll be so worth it to make these in your new kitchen! Wonderful collection of cookies – thanks.

    1. I’ve never used walnuts as much as I love them toasted…because making them too different would not be the same. Maybe I should try some in addition to, huh? Thank you!

  9. I was just considering buying the ingredients for some sour cream cookies yesterday and decided against it. Now I’m wondering what I was thinking! Thank goodness I might just have the ingredients for one or two of these recipes. We’ve got some new neighbors moving in next door and I should make some cookies to share with them don’t you think?

  10. Such a lovely selection of cookies here – I wouldn’t know where to start. I always bake at Christmas, but not this year. We are off to Italy for the holidays so I’ll be eating some Italian deliciousness pretty soon!

  11. I made your cookies for my mother, who simply adores Pecan Butter Balls. She’s a very hard woman to please and I wasn’t sure what she would say. She thought they were the best she ever had and asked where I had bought them. The look on her face when she found out that they were homemade was simply priceless! Thank you for the recipe, your Grandma would be proud of you, I know I am.

    1. You can’t imagine how heartwarming this message is for me tonight; thinking of my sweet Grandma is always a sweet moment amd hearing how your mother loved them too? Just simply made my day; thank you so much for taking the time to let me know.

    1. You know what? I never have! After baking I put them in tins and they last a long time though. Still, I would imagine they would freeze fine; it’s just flour, butter and nuts; nothing in there that would really change composition after freezing. I’m wondering though…were you thinking before or after baking. Not that I think it would matter either way but just curious.

  12. This is the third year I have made a version of this cookie. Not exactly sure what recipe I used in the past, but this year my husband thinks they are the best cookie I have ever made, even better than my chocolate chip cookies which I have been making for 35 years for him. I could not believe my ears. He also said I had to make more if taking any to a party on Friday. Better start baking tomorrow. I did not toast the pecans as we like the “raw” taste. Have printed and bookmarked this recipe for life. Thank you! I also make and use my own Bourbon Vanilla Extract.

    1. Jane…seriously made me get a bit teary because these cookies mean so much to me that it’s nice to know it’s not JUST because they are wrapped up in memories of my sweet Grandma. I had a similar one at a party the other night that were almost flavorless so I know there must be differences in all of the multitudes of recipes. Nothing and I mean NOTHING makes me happier than sharing something I love and having someone else love it too. Cheers! And Bourbon Vanilla Extract? Oh my…would you PLEASE share that with me?

    1. I think you could use any nut you want. I’ve never modified it but I imagine toasted walnuts would be equally good. I’ve found that toasting my walnuts a bit before baking with them is a new favorite; just brings out their flavor a bit more.

    1. There is nothing that makes me happier than hearing from someone who is happy with a recipe! I have 12 dozen sitting on my table now ready to be packaged for holiday gifts! I tried something just a bit different this time and did like the results; we toasted the pecans just a bit prior to grinding them and it does make them even better! Thanks for letting me know!

  13. I can’t believe how simple the recipe is nor can I believe that I have never had them. I think they are going on my list to bake this Christmas. I also think I share your addiction to vanilla ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Love the post, the title and cookies barb. Excellent story, tradition and tea cakes. I am always in search of one. Wish hotel room service tea would have these, I would go and stay in a hotel just for these, heeheehe, as I cannot make them at home due to allergies. Have awonderful Thanksgiving Holiday!! Shulie

  15. If you want vanilla to taste good straight out of the jar, try vanilla bean paste ๐Ÿ™‚

    At The Spice House in Chicago, they have a tester jar with another jar of small cinnamon sticks sitting next to it. I was hesitant, because I tried extract straight as a kid, too. Oh my, this stuff is good! I’ve been hooked ever since. Savory Spice carries it, but doesn’t have a taster (one of the very few in the store w/o one!).

    1. Savory Spice is on my list this weekend; I get excited like a kid in anticipation of going there and you’re right…very little there that you can’t taste before purchasing. I always include some small packs of spices in the gift baskets I make, yes it’s part of the gift but it’s also wonderful how it scents the package so when it’s opened…it’s Christmas!

  16. I used to make these all the time when I was a kid. My absolute favorite cookie. I’ll have to make them soon, it’s been years. They are DEEEElicious.

    1. I think if you’ve never had anything but the store bought version, someone might wonder what the big deal is, right? I used to get Royal Crest Dairy home delivery when my kids were younger and ever since the first time I tried their eggnog with these cookies, I have to admit it must also be a part of that Christmas Eve tradition. Those two combined? Oh my.

  17. ๐Ÿ™‚ It totally understand about the family recipe thing. If I make these for the family the MUST be made with honey as the sweetener.

  18. I make these cookies every year also, using powdered sugar instead of regular. My mother always asks me if I made Grandma Ruth’s recipe, which calls for 4 T of honey instead of the sugar. So, last year I did a bake-off of the recipe with powdered sugar and the one using honey. Honey won hands down! I recommend at least trying it!

    1. That sounds good…I might have to try a batch; but for me part of it is using my Grandmother’s recipe and gifting it to my Dad and my Aunt Jane, her two remaining kids…wonder if they would notice?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.